Airdrie, Alberta and Airdrie, Scotland - a tale of two cities
During the last week of September, I received an interesting call.
I answered the phone in my office, expecting a local story idea, a resident looking for information about a past story, praise about an article or even (gasp!) a complaint about our latest edition.
I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a man named Craig Cowbrough, of Cowbrough Communications Ltd., from our twin city Airdrie, Scotland looking to chat about a comparison of the two cities.
Our Scotland counterparts are hosting a working abroad job fair on Oct. 13 and 14 in conjunction with Calgary Economic Development to encourage Scottish residents to move to the Calgary area for work.
Cowbrough asked me to write a light-hearted column for the Scottish production, The Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser that compared and contrasted the two Airdries.
I was very excited about the opportunity, despite having a very busy week ahead of me, and I wanted to share the article with City View readers, so here it is:
Airdrie, Scotland’s namesake and much younger counterpart, Airdrie, Alberta, is one of the fastest-growing communities in Canada.
The Alberta city boasts a population of more than 45,711 (according to a 2012 census), while its Scotland counterpart is home to 36,326 (according to a 2001 census).
These numbers may seem similar. However, Airdrie, Scotland’s roots can be traced back to AD 577, while the Alberta city is a young pup, celebrating its centennial in 2009.
Although there are more than 12,000 kilometres separating the two, the communities share a surprising amount of culture and historical ties as well as demographics and common values.
Each city grew out of farmland, has connections to the railway and is situated just outside of a large metropolitan area.
Farming was also an intrinsic part of Airdrie, Alberta’s upbringing. In the late 1800s, homesteaders headed west in search of fertile lands for farming and new opportunities. It was these farmers, including A.E. Bowers and his brother-in-law W.H. Croxford, who constructed Airdrie’s first buildings including a barn, family homes, a general store and a post office.
Around the same time, Airdrie, Scotland’s population was increasing with a number of Irish immigrants, who were involved with mining and labouring. Railway links were established in 1830 and by 1862, the Airdrie and Bathgate Junction Railway provided a direct link to Edinburgh, with Airdrie South Station providing the starting point for trains to Glasgow.
In 1890 in Alberta, business partners Herbert Holt, William Mackenzie, Donald Mann and James Ross formed the Calgary and Edmonton Railway Company. In July of that year, construction began on the railway in Calgary, reaching Edmonton by the following summer. The future site of Airdrie made an ideal stopping point for the trains to take on water to run the steam engines.
Today, Airdrie, Alberta boasts a soccer field named Monklands Soccer Park. I’m sure most residents don’t think of where the name originated and would never guess it was named after Cistercian monks of Newbattle Abbey. The monks were farmers and most of the land they used is known today as ‘The Four Isles,’ an Airdrie (Scotland) housing estate named after four Scottish islands.
Along with history and monikers, the two cities have also shared modern challenges such as overcrowded schools and the need for a hospital.
Perhaps the most noticeable similarity is the fact both cities are considered commuter towns.
Airdrie, Alberta is 33.7 kilometres outside of Calgary – a city of more than one million people, while its twin city is 24.8 kilometres outside of Glasgow – a city of almost 600,000.
The Alberta city’s population has doubled in the past 10 years, while housing construction in Airdrie, Scotland has been very prominent recently.
Both cities are considered “young” and family friendly. The Alberta city has a median age of 30 to 34 and Scotland’s Airdrie’s median age is about 35.
The Airdries also share many values such as treasuring our histories, residents working together to make our communities better, putting family first and building connections through community events.
Whether you hail from Scotland and call yourself an Airdrieonian or are an Albertan and go by the title Airdronian, one thing is for sure – you can be proud to say you live in a great city called Airdrie.